Cement Truck


I wanted to get the cement truck into the poem
because I loved the bulk of the big rotating barrel
      as it went calmly down the street,
churning to keep the wet cement inside
                                    slushily in motion.

I liked the monster girth of the torso
                              and the tilted ovoid shape,
the raised rump with a hole like an anus at the back,
the double-thick tires to bear the weight. I liked
      the way that people turned to watch it pass–

because what is more like a rhinoceros or elephant
than this thick-skinned grunting beast
      goaded by two smallish men in jumpsuits?
Taking its ponderous time to obey,
            drizzling a stream of juice between its legs?

I knew that I might have to make the center of the poem wider
when the cement truck had to turn a corner,
      scraping the bark of an overhanging tree,
giving a nudge to the power lines–

then having to turn around again, because
the drivers have somehow gotten lost:
one of them running to borrow a garden hose
                        to wet down the load again,
one of them cursing and shaking out the map.

I liked the idea of my poem having room inside
for something real as that truck
and having to get there by two o'clock or else
to pour the floor of the high school gymnasium.

–And I think at this point it would have been a terrible mistake
to turn the truck
into a metaphor or symbol for something else.
It had taken me so long to get the world into my poem,
and so long to get my poem into the world.

Now I didn't want to go back.
Now I had a four-lane highway to drive down
and a pair of heavy rubber boots,
and a black rectangular lever just in front of the stick shift.
I wonder what that one does?


Tony Hoagland, Poetry, The Poetry Foundation, January, 2006.